La Cucina Stagionale

Blog for A Posto Personal Chef Services LLC in Newport, Oregon

Archive for the tag “turkey”

How Do You Celebrate the 4th of July?

Happy Independence Day!  Summer has truly arrived with the celebration of our nation’s independence.  Everyone looks forward to picnics, parties, backyard barbeques and parades.  When I was growing up in Southern California, my family would celebrate the day with a trip to Mission Bay on our boat.  My father purchased a 23-foot motorboat when I was about 12 years-old and we would take it out in Mission and San Diego Bay on weekends and holidays.  We would cruise around the bay for a few hours, water ski and then haul out for the BBQ in the park.  Mission Bay had a very large picnic area with tables and BBQ’s dotted all over.  You had to get there early to get your spot on the 4th of July, because the fireworks would be set off over the bay (near SeaWorld) later that night and the park would get crowded.

Our celebration feasts were the usual American fare of hamburgers, hot dogs, potato or macaroni salad, chips, beer, soda and of course, corn on the cob.  My father was a corn-on-the cob junkie and we ate it as a snack in our house after dinner with lots of butter and salt.  No BBQ with Big Al was ever without corn-on-the-cob!  As it got dark, we would put away the picnic and settle in for the fireworks.  My brothers and I were always excited to see the fireworks show.  It was spectacular and seemed to go on for hours.  Once the show was over, we would pack up and drive home sunburned, wind blown, and happy.

I celebrated a little differently after I moved to San Francisco.  Sometimes it would be by going to a concert, or a street fair, or away for the holiday or by going to Crissy Field to hang out and wait for the fireworks over the Golden Gate Bridge.  And after moving here to the Oregon Coast, the celebration continued with different foods, different friends and fireworks over Yaquina Bay.   My most favorite recent memory of the 4th of July was when I was in Italy in 2010.  I was working at Alla Lanterna completing my culinary school internship.  I was in the kitchen that morning doing my usual job of prepping fish (gutting anchovies) with the chef & other cooks, when Chef Elide said to me in English: ‘Happy 4th of July, Patrizia’.  I thanked her and the other cooks asked what Americans ate on the 4th of July to which Chef Elide promptly answered (this time in Italian): “Americans eat turkey on this day.’  I started laughing and said, “no, that’s on Thanksgiving in November.  Americans eat hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, salads, watermelon and corn-on-the-cob to celebrate the 4th of July”.  That made them laugh as the only hot dogs the Italians eat are on top of pizza (I’m not joking), and hamburgers are just as foreign.  Their idea of BBQ is a spit-roasted pig dripping with fat and stuffed with herbs and its own entrails!

So, I was asked to explain the tradition of food on the 4th of July to my Chef & cooks.  They didn’t care about the history of the event; no, they wanted to know why Americans ate what they ate and where did the tradition come from.  I really didn’t have a historical answer for them; I just said (as they often said to me when I asked such a question) that it’s just what we do.  It’s a holiday to celebrate with family and friends outside, because it’s summer, and the foods that are chosen are easily transportable.  I told them about my experiences growing up with our boat, barbequing and watching the fireworks afterwards.

After I was finished with my explanation (which took a while in my Neanderthal Italian), Chef Elide asked me if I wanted a hot dog to celebrate as she knew where she could get some.  I thanked her and said “no, I don’t eat hot dogs anymore, but I would sure love some fritto misto (fried fish) instead.”  I got a laugh out of her and an order to Andrea, the fry cook, to make me fritto misto for lunch.  I wasn’t in my own country, but I had a great celebration that day anyway as I was with my new family and friends and I celebrated with food that I love…..what better way to commemorate a holiday?

I hope you do the same on this day as you honor our nation’s independence with family, friends and good food!  Buon Appetito!

independence day food traditions

Happy 4th of July!  Today is the day that families and friends get together for picnics, barbeques, cookouts, clambakes, and other types of gatherings involving food.    We barbeque hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, ribs, tuna (albacore here), steaks, kabobs, tofu and a myriad of other proteins.  We eat macaroni salad, coleslaw, potato salad, corn on the cob, chips, baked beans, and other sides.  For sweets, we enjoy apple pie, brownies, crisps, cobblers, cookies, and watermelon.  The word picnic is from the French word "pique-nique" which is a type of potluck, and the picnic is the most popular way to celebrate this national holiday.

Americans celebrate their independence through food and the foods today are as varied as we are.  On the east coast, you might enjoy a clambake with lobster, clams, potatoes, and corn which is a method of cooking the colonists learned from the native Americans.  When you look at the foods that are traditionally eaten on the 4th of July, you begin to notice the vast ethnic influences that have been incorporated into the menus.  For example: watermelon came from Africa with the slaves, macaroni salad has Italian roots, hot dogs were influenced by Eastern Europeans as were the various types of potato salads.  It’s interesting to note that potatoes come from the Americas and they had to travel to Europe and be brought back by Europeans to become the salads we know and love today.

Where would Independence Day be without fireworks?  I’ll note it here that they originated with the destruction of war: cannons, guns, and bombs.  Now, they are a benign and beautiful way to remember our violent beginnings and no 4th of July celebration would be the same without them.  Back to food……

At present, you might celebrate the 4th of July with Greek, Mexican, Spanish, Korean, Chinese, Russian, Hawaiian, or Cajun foods.  It doesn’t really matter anymore what type of food that you celebrate with as long as you celebrate.  When I was growing up, we barbequed hamburgers and hot dogs.  Now I celebrate with whatever is in season and fresh at the time.  Today, it will be an Asian inspired grilled chicken and zucchini salad with fresh cantaloupe for dessert; a simple way to honor this most important day in our country.

I will share a story from my culinary school adventures before I leave you.  I was working at Alla Lanterna on the 4th of July last year, and when I came into the kitchen that morning to start work I was greeted by Chef Elide who wished me a Happy Independence Day and wanted to know if my husband was going to roast a turkey to celebrate.  I looked at her sort of confused and asked her why she thought Bruce would be roasting a turkey.  She said, ‘isn’t this the day Americans eat turkey and stuffing?’  I laughed and said, ‘no, that is Thanksgiving Day, not Independence Day.  On this day, Americans traditionally barbeque hamburgers and hot dogs and then watch fireworks at night’.  Her comment was that she would rather have turkey instead of a hamburger or a hot dog.  I just nodded my head and started gutting fish.  I didn’t want to comment back that I thought it strange that Italians ate hot dogs and French fries on pizza…..Surprised smile

No matter how strange you might think other people’s food traditions are, you should celebrate this day with your favorite foods and remember those who won independence for this country.  Buon Appetitio!

My Favorite Potato Salad (serves 4-6)

(remember to be very careful when serving potato or any mayonnaise based salads as they can cause food-borne illness.  Keep them out of the sun and always on ice to ensure they stay properly chilled)

This salad is Spanish in origin and is best with homemade mayonnaise.

Ingredients:

1 lb. waxy potatoes

1/2 cup mayonnaise

3 (or more) garlic cloves, minced

2 tbs. finely chopped parsley

Salt and Pepper to taste

Splash of sherry vinegar or lemon juice

Method:

Boil the potatoes in salted water (or chicken stock for more flavor) for about 15-20 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork.  Drain, let cool slightly, then peel and dice.  Combine the mayonnaise, garlic, vinegar or lemon juice, and parsley in a medium bowl, and add the potatoes.  Gently toss and season with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.

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